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Exploring Equine Physical Therapy: Benefits & Techniques

When a horse experiences wear and tear or any type of injury, it can lead to discomfort when they are trying to move around. Here, our Ocala equine veterinarians discuss the purpose, benefits, and techniques for equine physical therapy and stretching.


What is the purpose of equine physical therapy?

Physical therapy is not only used to help treat injuries but it can also be used to help prevent your horse from getting hurt in the first place

Horses hold many roles and jobs and serve many different purposes. We need to support them in every way possible if we expect them to do their best.

Here we will discuss physical therapy and exercises for horses, what to expect, and how they help.

What is a therapeutic exercise program?

When a horse begins a therapeutic exercise program, it will be to target a specific issue. This can be an injury or muscle weakness.

The main goal will be to get your horse moving comfortably and well, allowing them to work and perform optimally.

A comprehensive therapeutic exercise program addresses:

  • Range of motion: Can your horse fully move their limbs?
  • Proprioception: Is your horse aware of their size and movement?
  • Motor control: Can your horse regulate their own movements?
  • Strength: Is your horse strong enough for what is expected of them?
  • Endurance: Is your horse able to perform for as long as necessary?
  • Speed: Can your horse safely move fast enough?

Horse Rehabilitation Techniques

Equine stretching and exercises can help reduce the risk of your horse experiencing injury and are ideal for the prevention of discomfort.

Stretching Your Horse

Stretches can be used both to warm up and cool down before and after physical activity. They can also help keep your horse pliable, allowing them to move around without injury. Depending on the technique, some horse stretches can also be used to help improve their overall performance. It is ideal to stretch your horse at the end of their physical activity while they are still warmed up.

Leg stretches
  • With both hands on the fetlock, pick up your horse's foreleg and ease it toward their nose, holding for 10 seconds.
  • Next, stretch the hindleg by picking it up and stretching it toward the foreleg and hold for 10 seconds.

As with any exercise, you will want to slowly ease into the motion. Begin with a small amount of range and gradually push your horse further.

If your horse resists the exercise, you should allow them to have a break, only attempting again once they are fully relaxed.

Carrot stretches

Carrot stretches are named as such because you actually use carrots (or any other treat). For this stretch, you will want to use the carrot or treat to encourage your horse to move in a specific way (usually moving their head down between their legs).

You can continue to coax your horse, pushing them further until their head is between the fetlocks. Be sure to stop before your horse bends their knees or shakes.

Next, you can stand beside their shoulder and convince your horse to move their head around you on either side. Continue this in slow controlled movements.

Some of the stretching tips that we can offer include:

  • Help your horse to warm up before performing any exercises.
  • Don't allow your horse to perform jerking movements.
  • Your horse's head should always be straight during carrot stretches.
  • A horse should always be guided during stretching, never forced. 
  • Provide your horse with solid, non-slippery footholds, and never have them tied up during exercises.

Exercises for Your Horse

When choosing the right exercise for your horse, you should consider the type of injury and where it is located. Since they are horses, we cannot just vocalize our desired movement and outcome. Instead, we can help to design and plan exercises that meet all of the needs of your horse.

The main goals of therapeutic exercise are to increase tissue strength, improve the range of motion, and quality of tissue healing, and prevent scar tissue from forming.

  • Steady Beginnings: Walking
  • On the Way Up: Inclines
  • Up and Over: Poles and Pedestals
  • On the Line: Ropes, Lines, and Bands

Manual Therapies

Equine physiotherapy makes use of a variety of different techniques for the health of your horse. These therapies may be performed on their own in conjunction with various other therapies.

Your veterinary professional will first evaluate and monitor your horse's health to ensure that the treatment or combinations of treatments are suitable for their needs.

You should consult with your equine vet before making any decision that involves the treatment of your horse.

Equine Therapeutics at Florida Equine Veterinary Associates

From joint or tendon injuries to inflammation, arthritis, and other health conditions, horses can acquire a variety of conditions that need treatment.

Our equine veterinary team in Ocala offers numerous equine therapeutic treatments designed to help manage pain, speed healing, and reduce inflammation and scar tissue that may impede recovery.

Whether it's administering acupuncture treatments for musculoskeletal disorders, shockwave therapy to help your horse regain mobility, or another treatment option, we are here to help your horse get back to performing at its best.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding animals, or professional advice regarding equine regulations. For the diagnosis of your animal's condition and help to navigate regulations governing the care and transportation of equine animals please contact your vet.

Would you like to learn more about helping your horse to live life comfortably and heal quickly? Contact Florida Equine Veterinary Associates to schedule a consultation for therapeutic services.

New Patients Welcome

Florida Equine Veterinary Associates is passionate about the health of sport and performance horses. Get in touch today to book your equine athelete's first appointment.

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